Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pa Elk Season

In the morning the Pennsylvania Elk season or hunt as many call it will begin.  Seventeen persons were successful in obtaining bull tags along with thirty three others with antlerless tags.

I sit here wondering what the outcome of this years season will be.  How many of the bulls that so many have come to know, animals who are very trusting of humans, will fall to the bullets and arrows that will come their way in to coming days.

I cannot condemn the PGC for the need to manage these majestic animals but neither can I agree with any program that portrays these trusting animals as fitting trophies for hunters to proudly hang on their wall.

There are other ways of managing the elk herd rather than selectively removing the best males from the herd with a trophy hunt.  I cannot disagree that hunting is the best way to keep the herd within the management goals of the area but bull tags should at least for the most part be for animals who have passed their prime or who's genetics keep them from becoming dominate bulls at all.  This could be done as simply as restricting the bull kill to branch antlered animals with 5 or less points per side.  A slot restriction would get some younger bulls killed but we would be protecting the best breeding bulls at the time of their life where they can do the most good for this small isolated herd.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Chase is On

Spending yesterday afternoon in the woodlands I noticed a number of whitetail scrapes; unmistakable signs that the whitetail pre-rut is beginning.  This was confirmed later when this buck showed up chasing the does about the meadow.

The rutting activity continued this morning as this doe trotted past my position with a following buck some distance in the rear.

As the doe made a break for it the buck sped to intercept.

She easily out distanced him as he fruitlessly pursued her.

This race is one that cannot be won now but a couple of weeks from now the does will be more willing to submit to the reproductive urges.

I recently acquired a gimbal tripod head and am finding it very useful for action shooting.  The gimbal design makes for very easy yet stable camera movement while following fast paced action.

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Friday, October 29, 2010


Each autumn and winter we have just a few chickadees visiting our feeders.  I have found photographing these birds very frustrating.  With a black eye set in the bottom of their black crown capturing good eye detail nearly always seems to elude me.  That is why I was very pleased when I reviewed this image that I captured this evening.

The diffused light from a heavily clouded sky provided perfect lighting to photograph the chickadee by.

I hesitate to call this a Black-capped Chickadee since learning that both Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees are found in our area and the difference between them is too slight for me to make a positive identification.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

After years if photographing White-breasted Nuthatches at the feeders I was surprised Sunday morning when a male Red-breasted came running down the tree.  I have seen the Red-breasted nuthatches occasionally in our area but they have been few and far between and never before has one appeared at our naturalized bird feeders nor had I ever had the opportunity to photograph one.

Compared to the White-breasted the RB is a much smaller bird and its movements were more rapid.  On another note, although it was the first time observing this bird it was quite comfortable with me and the camera following its movements from 10-15 feet away.
Another pose

Having a new species to photograph made the morning more interesting.     

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn Abstracts

Autumn Abstracts

With our Autumn Colors peaking I wanted to do something a little different than shooting landscapes

A combination of camera settings and movement was used to create the following images

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Camera Critters: Tufted Titmouse

Posing for its portrait a Tufted Titmouse watches me intently while bathed in the warm evening sunlight

With the weather turning cooler these little birds are now swarming to the feeders

Clutching a sunflower seed tightly the titmouse pauses momentarily.  Never sitting still for long photographing these little critters can become very frustrating as they strike the perfect pose and then flit away before I can swing the camera, achieve focus and shoot.  I usually end up with as many empty frames or frames of blurry birds flying away but that is part of the fun of photographing these feathered friends of the woodlands.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Best Bull - Elk Rut 2010

During my stay in Pennsylvania's Elk Country this was the largest racked bull that I encountered.  The photo session with this animal was short as we first sighted him early in the evening as he approached the crest on a hill on a newly reclaimed strip mine.  The bull was walking swiftly and I had to hurry to get into position to get the autumn foliage in the background.  Without this maneuver the photos would have only shown the elk on barren ground with a gray sky beyond.

Another elk viewer who was watching from a distance later told me that he had observed two hunters following this animal and had turned back shortly before he crested the hill.  The hunters would have been the individual holding the Governor's Conservation Tag and his guide. 

As the bull moved off he stopped to bugle while standing near the crest of the hill.  The overcast skies did nothing to enhance this photo of the outstanding bull.  Replacing the gray sky with a sky shot taken that same morning before sunrise changed the image completely.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Penn's Cave Light Show

At one point in the cavern tour Dave turned out his spotlight and activated a colored light show.  Although beautiful the light levels were so low the shutter speed fell far below the range for shooting hand-held even with image stabilization.  Of course since we were in a boat sitting on the water a tripod was completely out of the question.  This image was shot with a 45mm focal length, F4, 1/3 shutter speed. 

As the red light played across the columns the scene brightened enough for a 1/4 second shutter speed

And 1/6 second for the blue light shot

First opened for the public in 1885 Penn's Cave has attracted visitors for 125 years and is still going strong. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Penn's Cave

Recently my wife and I visited Penn's Cave near Centre Hall Pennsylvania. 

Penn's Cave bills itself as America's only all water cavern. 

In The Cave With Dave

Our tour guide Dave referred to our tour as in the cave with Dave.  I must say he was quite knowledgeable and very entertaining.

I'm accustomed to spending a lot of time in boats but this was my first boat ride underground.  The water flowing through this cavern is actually the spring that upon its exit forms the headwaters of Penn's Creek, a premier limestone trout fishery

The cavern contains beautiful Stalactites, Stalagmites and Columns

A pair of beautifully detailed columns appear to be supporting the cavern roof in this photograph 

The 48 steps leading up from the cave seemed longer than they did on the way in

The one hour boat tour was certainly worth the $15.95 fee.  More info on Penn's Cave can be found by clicking here.

Having never photographed in a cavern before I didn't know what to expect.  I set the camera on ISO 1600 and shot handheld using image stabilization and available light. Sure a great number of the shots were throw-aways but enough of the images were keepers as to give me a good set of images from this down under experience.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Afternoon's Flight Shots

Flight shots are not the easiest shots to make and then when you add in a moving boat they become even more difficult.  I make these shots from my electric powered bass boat while fishing the local lake. 

The Pileated Woodpecker flew across the narrow end of the lake but before it disappeared into the woodland I was able to get off a couple of frames.  Not quite sharp and too far away the photo nearly landed in the trash can but then I had second thoughts.

Spotting a Bald Eagle is always a special moment and when this one soared high overhead I was ready with the camera.  Again the distance was too great for the kind of shot I hoped for but I am content to settle for this one until a better opportunity comes along.

Noticing an Osprey land in a dead tree I slowly motored as close as it would permit while waiting for the take-off shot.  When it came I was still farther away than what I would have preferred and I should have had a higher shutter speed set as again the image doesn't quite make the grade. 

Although not the high quality images that I strive for they remain as a digital reminder of a beautiful enjoyable day in the great outdoors.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fred: Pennsylvania's Most Famous Elk

Resting peacefully as yet another rut passes by

Back in the day Fred, AKA bull 36, was the King of Winslow Hill but now in his advancing years a quiet resting spot is more preferable than a harem of cows.

During my recent visit to Pa's Elk Country Willard & I located Fred resting near the new Elk Country Visitor Center while a light rain fell.  This was my only sighting of the famous bull during this stay.

I was amused by how often Fred sightings were rumored around the viewing areas as many people excitedly told us about Fred's whereabouts.  I heard of Fred being seen bugling, fighting, etc.  It soon became clear that some good folks were misidentifying other collared bulls as Fred.  One time the bull turned out to be 8A, a much younger bull who is now in his prime. 


Another bull who was being misidentified as Fred was the young bull 2A.  This fellow has a few years to go before he reaches his prime.


When Fred passes on will one of these bulls fill the void left by "Fred"  Pennsylvania's Most Famous Bull? 

I hope so but with most bulls being killed during the hunt before or upon reaching their prime the chances of a bull reaching Fred's status is very slim.

For more photo's of Fred throughout the years visit Willard at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer and for more

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Magical Evening

Wednesday was mostly a dreary day and evening was no exception.  Willard & I had spent a couple of hours attempting to locate elk and finally spotted a good bull and his harem on a ridge top.  I decided to approach them while Willard moved on looking for other opportunities.

I spent about an hour with the bull & his harem as other bulls would approach only to be driven off by the dominate bull.  With the poor quality light I was unable to capture any stunning images but the experience was certainly enjoyable.  As the evening progressed I noticed movement below me and was pleased to see our friends Buckwheat and Odie approaching.  Photographing elk and talking shop is always fun and this was no exception.  As the light began to fade Odie headed back down the hill while Buckwheat & I positioned ourselves to capture a few late evening skyline shots.

Unexpectedly the sky began to take on a beautiful hue cloaking the landscape in a garment of magical colors.

Calling Buckwheat's attention to the sunset I suggested that perhaps we could get some silhouettes, Buckwheat's response was "come on"!

Hurriedly we dropped off the hilltop and swung around the elk positioning the dominate bull against the brilliant sky then waiting for the poses worthy of a photograph.

 When the dominate bull moved off the ridge top a nice 6X6 appeared and struck this awesome pose

And then this one

With a roaring bugle the dominate bull strode past my position as the 6X6 retreated

In the rapidly fading evening light the dominate bull screamed his defiance at the nearby bulls after successfully defending his little harem.

Carefully traversing the steep landscape in the gathering darkness my mind kept returning to the incredible twenty minutes I had just spent with the elk.  The beauty of the stunning sunset, the throaty bugles of the bulls, and a collection of new elk silhouettes; what more could a wildlife photographer want.

I have only one word to describe the evening............PERFECT!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Elk Hunt Zone 2 & The Viewing Areas

During my visits to the Pennsylvania Elk Range I have noted from a number of conversations that many elk viewers are confused over where that elk are hunted.  For example one gentleman who struck up a conversation while watching a dominate bull and his harem at the parking area located in the bottom of this photograph commented that "they don't hunt these elk".  He was surprised when he learned just how close to this position that legal elk hunting is conducted. 

Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill Elk viewing area

This photo was taken from the hillside to the west located in Elk Hunt Zone 2.  The boundary between the no kill zone and zone two is just below the bottom of the photograph.

Our friend Richard accompanied Willard & I Wednesday morning when we walked into Zone 2 to photograph elk at one of Willard's favorite observation spots located on the wall of a retention pond.  On the way back we encountered this young bull polishing his antlers.  This photograph was taken with a 24mm-105mm lens set on 50mm focal length. 

With his mock combat finished the bull moved closer to a food plot and began grazing.  This photograph was taken at the 24mm focal length.  Remember some will claim that Pennsylvania elk hunting is conducted well away from the viewing areas and that the elk in the kill zones are "wild" elk and are not the same animals seen around Benezette.  Not only was these images taken in hunt zone 2 but they were taken while the individual possessing the governor's conservation tag and his guide was archery hunting elk in this exact area. 

Photograph taken from the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill viewing area bordering the Winslow Hill road.

The area center right of this photograph where the ground cover is a mixture of brown & green is in hunt Zone 2.  I overheard one individual discussing with another about how he would like to be drawn for a tag for this area.  He stated that he wants to kill an elk but wants it to be a fair chase hunt, not a high fence hunt where the elk cannot get away.  I shudder to think that anyone could think that hunting elk anywhere near this area could conceivably be considered fair chase hunting.

Pennsylvania provides some of the very best elk viewing to be found anywhere thanks to the habitat around these and other viewing areas and the acclimated animals that will allow visitors to watch with wonder as these magnificent animals go about their daily business with scarecly a concern for the people standing nearby. 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pennsylvania Elk 2010

This young bull fed to withing a few yards of my position before bedding up for the day.

Not large by Pennsylvania standards; the symmetrical 6X6 antlers signify that this bull may have the potential to become an outstanding animal given a few more years to mature.  The photographs of this bull were taken in the hollow below the Porcupine Run - Winslow Hill viewing area merely yards from the boundary of elk hunt zone two.

Although I mostly find myself photographing bulls during my visits to Pennsylvania's Elk Country I do not pass up a good calf shot when it presents.

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For more Elk stop back later :)